From one man to two-man crew, what now!? at

Go Back   DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Documentary Techniques

Documentary Techniques
-- Discuss issues facing documentary production.

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old March 22nd, 2015, 10:51 AM   #1
Regular Crew
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Three Lakes
Posts: 52
From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

I filmed 350 hours on my own for my first doc, and was wildly swinging the camera from one person to another. It was a group of people in spontaneous action/dialogue.

I've now got a 2nd cameraman for a similar project and here's the system I came up with to prevent the abbreviated scenes:

Camera 1: Default to medium shot of the speaker/main action
When 2nd person speaks cam 1 waits for ~3 seconds where he's at (last speaker) and then switches to medium shot of next person

Camera 2: Default to wide shot of main speaker OR reaction shots from others in group
Cam2 is the first to catch (and watch for) a 2nd speaker. Catches 2nd person in wide and holds until camera 1 establishes medium shot.

Other than that, I figure with 2 cameras we'll have some freedom for one person to roam around and get B-roll. If anybody has tips for a 2 camera system, let me know.

Adjul Gardner is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 22nd, 2015, 11:34 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
Posts: 1,431
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

It seems to me that you'll still be swinging wildly..

with two cameras might it not be better to ensure at least one of them has a steady shot at all times. Lets say the group is 10 people

Camera 2 is on a wide either covering the whole group or at least half of them. Camera 1 can get a medium of the speaker and when he moves to get a new speaker, camera 2 has the shot.

I guess it depends on what you're trying to achieve
Cheers - Paul M. :
Paul Mailath is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 23rd, 2015, 01:56 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 1,081
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

Two man shoot in a spontaneous environment... you eventually get a vibe with someone so they know what you're thinking and can cover while you move. I tend to do assignments more like protagonist / antagonist - I like action/reaction sequencing, so even if it's 200 protesters and a congressperson, I'll have one guy on the congressperson and one guy covering the 200 people. As long as your subject isn't speaking, you have a min to vary up the shot or scoot around.

Seeing your partner's ass in your shot... I have never really managed to take care of that 100% in a fast-moving environment.
Mike Watson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 24th, 2015, 03:27 AM   #4
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Central Coast - NSW, Australia
Posts: 1,431
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

"Seeing your partner's ass in your shot..."

depends on the partner I guess

.... I'll see myself out
Cheers - Paul M. :
Paul Mailath is offline   Reply With Quote
Old March 24th, 2015, 06:19 AM   #5
Inner Circle
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 4,364
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

I have been in a situation where I had to operate two cameras from a single discreet fixed position in a court ceremonial sitting of a new Judge being welcomed to the bench. The camera position was very confined and became even more so due to a stills shooter turning up and occupying the same workplace, the witness box.

In this instance I departed from what would be a more normal arrangement of committing one camera to wide shots and the other to closer coverage. I set one camera a little higher than the other, so neither would get in each other's frame.

I began a "your turn" - "my turn" regime of alternatingly leaving one camera on a wide view or loose two-shot or three shot of the bench speakers, then panning the other camera to the bar table in a wide view where welcoming addresses were being delivered to await the next speaker rising and commencing the address. I would wait for the initial back and forth to play out then the formal speech would commence.

Then bringing the other camera around onto the bar table and going in for the closer view, then panning the first camera back onto the bench to the presiding judge and ready for replies to the bar table.

I also used both cameras on subject in the more normal wide master and closer view arrangement during long deliveries when I knew nothing was going to happen suddenly.

I was assisted by knowing in fairly good detail the process and what was going to happen.

There will be inevitable gaps in coverage doing it this way so it is important to film a whole lot of cutaway material before the event gets under way.

I filmed this pro-bono piece with a similar method. The dip to black was forced by one shot just not looking good due to a change in composition by a person moving. I had no prior rehearsal or preparation. My rhythm got caught out by two persons doing things at the same time and I had no wide master shot. That's what happens when one of two cameras is momentarily unattended by a lone operator.

Take notice of the far better advice of people here who know what they are talking about.

Bob Hart is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 5th, 2015, 09:33 AM   #6
Major Player
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 414
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

What Bobs saying rings quite true in multi-camera shoots, I direct live multi-camera shoots of up to six camera's and it's important that your shots are mindful not to see other operators in the shot, and the camera operators need to be directed as to what type of shots your looking from them to feed you.

Obviously in a doco type situation your subject is not going to be as controlled, but it's important either by direct communication or hand signals to indicate what your covering, I'm sorry I'm not sure if you mentioned the subject matter of the shoot, but what I feel is important is to make sure to cover the talent or subject that most strongly conveys the story. So maybe assign one shooter to the subject/talent and the other does B roll stuff.

As you know you don't want all camera's covering only one area with the same framing as that's a simple issue of redundancy, but don't go from a mid to wide shot for the sake of it, make sure it adds to the story, use your rule of thirds and keep your looking room of the subject, (all the basics I'm sure your familiar with).

There's nothing worse than lots of shots and cutaways that don't add to the story, the safe shot depending on the scenario is good, but I'd use it only if you have more camera's, it'd become a little boring if you had 2 or 3 shots for the piece.

good luck, I suggest get like subject doco's and see how they were shot to give you a idea of what does or doesn't work.
Adam Letch is offline   Reply With Quote
Old April 21st, 2015, 05:57 PM   #7
Regular Crew
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Three Lakes
Posts: 52
Re: From one man to two-man crew, what now!?

Hey, just read that last post and could have used the tip about deciding on framing angle and also being more pro-active on the intentional wide/close-up shots. Here's how it went down:

My friend and I each ran a camera, and we also had a wide high-angle GoPro set up for most of the shots.

One surprising thing was that I ended up having a high level of participation in the event. So it was good that my friend had a camera to go to me and cover the shots when I was fully engaged in speaking and listening.

It took the first day to warm up. I put him on primary speaker since I thought I had a better feel for the diversity of shots/reactions and B-roll to fill the gaps. Once the next speaker would start I would hit them ASAP, letting him linger on the last speaker, and if he had a bad angle he would reposition to relieve me and free me up for a B-roll shot/reactions/close-ups or a wider shot. He always kept a medium shot of the speaker or current action. At firs the would linger and wander, and not be clear about relieving me when caught the next speaker.

By the end of the 2.5 day shoot we had it pretty much down. We would nonverbally check in with each other and delegate who would take the shot. We weren't so strict about the primary/secondary system, and - especially when we were outside and had more room to move - would jockey different positions around the circle and be sure to keep out of each others shot. He got fatigued and started using a tripod so I would sometimes stand behind him to see how he's framing and do a wider or narrower shot of the speaker, depending on the situation.

Knowing I had the security of him always getting the speaker freed up my brain big-time to consider what B-roll was needed: bored looks, laughs, fidgeting (he also helped point out one participant's physical tick when he was worked up, which I wouldn't have noticed), as well as long-slow pans from the trees or from person to person. I've been working with terrible archival footage of a similar event with virtually no B-roll, so I had a wish-list in my head from all those "damnit" moments when I wish there was a pan or pause longer than 1.5 seconds that I didn't have to artificially stretch in post.

We also got a little better with hand signals. The most used one was when I was taking the main speaker and would swing my arm to get him to do a pan of the group. Occasionally I signaled for him to get a wide shot.

The one thing we didn't do was to get a hand system for how we were framing, oftentimes we could have supported each other with wide/medium or medium/close shots of the same speaker, but we had no idea how the other was framing for composition purposes.

Also, I took virtually no extreme close ups (eyes, nature, etc) which in the end I regretted. But, as far as pacing options go, the long slow shots of surroundings and the main event will come in very handy, compared with my frenetic one-man-crew pace in the past.
Adjul Gardner is offline   Reply

DV Info Net refers all where-to-buy and where-to-rent questions exclusively to these trusted full line dealers and rental houses...

(800) 223-2500
New York, NY

B&H Photo Video
(866) 521-7381
New York, NY

Texas Media Systems
(512) 440-1400
Austin, TX

Precision Camera
(800) 677-1023
Austin, TX

(800) 323-2325
Mineola, NY

DV Info Net also encourages you to support local businesses and buy from an authorized dealer in your neighborhood.
  You are here: DV Info Net > Special Interest Areas > Documentary Techniques

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:54 AM.

DV Info Net -- Real Names, Real People, Real Info!
1998-2018 The Digital Video Information Network